Crazy For You is one of the brightest, lightest musicals around. Check your worries at the door, and just come and be entertained. Based on George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 musical Girl Crazy, and interpolating songs from several Gershwin shows, the story concerns wannabe Song and Dance man Bobby Child, and his adventures far away from The Great White Way. To be precise, in Deadrock, Nevada, where he’s been sent by his overbearing Mother to foreclose on a property on behalf of her bank. The property is, of course, a theatre; and the theatre is currently run, of course, by the very attractive Polly Baker. Cue several comic entanglements featuring a pair of Hungarian Impresarios, one lusty fiancée, and an endless supply of peroxide chorus girls.
To pull off this show any company needs a leading man with charm, charisma, great comic timing, and a great set of hoofing pins. Rob Bateman has all of these, and leads the show with ease. His dancing in particular is a delight, and his drunken comic duet with Steve Hayes’ sonorous Bela Zangler is excellent. A little more confidence really releasing his singing voice, and we have a genuine triple threat talent on our hands.
As Bobby’s love interest Becky Wicketts is taking her first leading role in a show, possesses enough appeal to suggest it won’t be her last. Her dance duets with Bateman were assuredly graceful. She just needs to allow her decent American speaking voice to move into her light singing voice; at the moment all Polly’s songs, while undoubtedly heartfelt, are delivered in a very straight English accent.
Sterling comic support came from Kate Perks as Bobby’s overbearing Mother, Fran Cutts and Steve Harris as delightfully upper crust interlopers and Jenny Bottomley and Andrew Halliday as a mismatched couple who find themselves strangely attracted to each other.
The company was in fine voice throughout, particularly the trio of cowboys who light up several moments with their excellent harmonies. At its best, Vivienne Morrison’s clever choreography allowed the company to mix set dance sections with freer folk-dance-inspired movements, giving numbers like I’ve Got Rhythm the real sense of a spontaneous street party. At other times it’s fair to say that not all the members of the company were up to the demands of the routines. However, I am never one to complain when a company tackles numbers with energy and enthusiasm; much better to have gusto and a few wrong steps than be unconfident and lethargic!
Terry Wheddon’s production makes the best use of the small Arts Complex stage. If the first act felt a little sluggish, Act 2 more than made up for it, and, a few first night lighting issues aside, runs very smoothly to a highly commendable 10pm finish time. All this is ably supported by Musical Director Stephen Perrins and his excellent orchestra.
All in all a thoroughly engaging and charming evening celebrating all that’s good about local amateur theatre.
STAMPS production of Crazy for You runs at Solihull Arts Complex until 7 November.
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